Out of the leading causes of mortality in the Philippines, diabetes strikes particularly close to home. Aside from heredity, diabetes also results from habits we cultivate in our culture: To be Filipino is to love to eat, and the idea of “less rice” feels almost like going against our very nature.
But it may be necessary to push back against the eighth leading cause of death in the Philippines. Luckily, if you’re pre-diabetic, or if you have a family history of diabetes, the push back doesn’t have to be dramatic. Incremental changes in your daily habits may help prevent the disease and its complications, to never take over your life.
- Don’t cut it out—but cut down. As Pinoys, we love our “unli-rice.” The idea of cutting down feels offensive! But you can’t avoid reducing rice if you want to avoid a diabetic future. High glycemic foods like rice jack up insulin and blood sugar levels in a short time. Low glycemic foods, on the other hand, have a smaller effect on both. You don’t have to give up rice, just cut it down to half a cup per meal, or substitute with lower-glycemic brown rice. Another habit we need to reduce is kutkot. Cut down on consuming processed foods like bags of chips and fast-food-chain dishes.
- Get off the couch, and get active. Those extra pounds don’t just mean tighter clothes. They mean you’re more vulnerable to diabetes in the long run, as added fat reduces your body’s ability to process insulin (the chemical that regulates blood sugar). But you don’t have to push yourself to fitness extremes. You only need at least 150 minutes a week of physical activity, which means taking breaks from long hours of sitting at your desk, and walking more often. When combined with a healthier diet (see number one), you may see pounds coming off easily in due time, albeit gradually. Exercise dials back the threat of diabetes, by helping lower your blood sugar levels in the short term, and reducing insulin resistance in the long run. So get out there and start walking!
- No more “puyatan.” You lose far more than you gain when you stay up late. Sleep deprivation causes dangerous changes in glucose metabolism, therefore adding to the risk of acquiring diabetes. Aim for consistently getting around eight hours of sleep at night. You can’t make it up on the weekends—research by the University of Colorado Boulder found that weekends spent sleeping in doesn’t help your body replenish the energy lost due to short-term sleep during the rest of the week!
- Think green. You’ll find a surprising amount of help from natural herbs in reducing the risk of diabetes. In the Philippines, many pre-diabetes patients have found help in consuming a bitter herb called Sinta (Andrographispaniculata), which may help in lowering blood sugar levels. Sinta is related to the plant called Serpentina (Rauwolfia serpentina). The active ingredients are found in the leaves, which are 10 times more bitter than ampalaya. Luckily, you don’t have to eat the leaves raw, you can take Sinta leaves in a more easy-to-swallow package. Sinta leaves usually come in capsule form and are now available in Mercury Drugstores nationwide.